Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Steve Begin signs with Nashville Predators

While listening to The Montreal Forum on The Team 990 I was glad to hear that former Boston Bruins center Steve Begin had signed with the Nashville Predators.

TSN.ca reported that his deal is a one-year, two way contract worth $550,000 and that Steve is scheduled to head to the Predators’ AHL affiliate in Milwaukee for a conditioning stint before joining the Preds.



The 32-year old, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec native has been an unrestricted free-agent since his one-year deal in Boston expired on July 1.  Begin played in 77 games for the Bruins last season, picking up five goals and nine assists.  He also scored once in 13 Bruins’ playoff games.  Out of 486 career games played with the Flames, Canadiens, Stars and Bruins, he has a total of 52 goals and 48 assists to go along with 535 minutes in penalties.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

R.I.P. Dennis Hopper

This is one of the best scenes in film history… written by Quentin Tarantino & performed by Christopher Walken and the late, great Dennis Hopper.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bruins Head Into The Final Week of the Season

What a week of ups and downs for the Bruins.  On Monday they started out with a pretty poor showing against the Buffalo Sabres.  This saw Tim Thomas getting pulled midway through the second after Buffalo scored their third goal of the night.  Not all the blame can be placed on Tim’s shoulders though, the defense fell apart on more then a few occasions and two out of the three goals even deflected off Dennis Wideman and past Thomas.  Tuesday they traveled to “The Rock” in New Jersey to face the Devils.  The Bruins seemed much more focused and held the Atlantic Division leaders scoreless for the entire sixty minutes.  Then with 18.3 seconds left in overtime Patrice Bergeron picked up Mark Stuart’s rebound and put it past Martin Brodeur for the win, keeping them within the top 8 in the East.  Back home in the Garden on Thursday against the Florida Panthers.  What a homecoming Florida, and former Boston College, goalie Scott Clemmensen had.  He recorded his first shutout in one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever watched.  It seemed like the Bruins had more scoring chances in that one game then they’ve had all year.  But not a single one could find the back of the net.  Which brings us to last night in Toronto… all week everyone’s been talking about home all of these games in the home stretch of the regular season are “must wins” for the Bruins, but that statement was so important going into Saturday.  Forget about the Toronto draft picks the B’s have, forget about the Divisional rivalry, and forget about the Phil Kessel nonsense.  The only thing that any of them needed to be thinking about was the simple math.  There are five teams in the Eastern Conference looking to fill the bottom three spots in the Playoffs.  Obviously two teams are going home unhappy in less then a week.  So when Colton Orr scored the first goal of the game, I don’t think I was the only one that thought back to the recent game against the Panthers and said, “Not again.”  But about half way through the second Miroslav Satan cleaned the slate by knocking home a feed from David Krejci.  That would be the way it stayed until 3:25 into overtime when Satan once again played the role of “Johnny on the Spot” by redirecting in a Zdeno Chara shot from the point giving the Bruins two huge points in the very crowded standings.

So here’s how the bottom of the Eastern Conference breaks down heading into the final week of the season...

    6th – Montreal Canadiens (86 points)
    7th – Boston Bruins (84 points)
    8th – Philadelphia Flyers (82 points)
    9th – New York Rangers (82 points)
    10th Atlanta Thrashers (81 points)

Everyone is one win away from some form of movement.  The Flyers have the Detroit Red Wings Easter Sunday afternoon on NBC and the Bruins travel to Washington to play Alexander Ovechkin and the league leading Capitals on Monday night.  The rest of them have games on Tuesday.

The Bruins main focus needs to be on a tight defense against the Capitals.  It’s no secret that the Bruins have some serious scoring issues and Washington has one of the leagues scoring leaders in Ovechkin.  The object needs to be shutting down Washington’s offense, and then throw some big bodies in front of their goalie when the B’s are in the offensive zone, and look for the redirects.

OTHER NOTES:
Dennis Seidenberg suffered a cut on his left wrist in the first period of the Toronto game and didn’t return.  Coach Julien said, in the post game interview, that Dennis was ok and would travel with the team to Washington.

Mark Stuart was flown back to Boston Saturday afternoon after it was discovered that he had cellulitis in his hand.  A quick Google search came back as, a skin infection caused by bacteria that can spread to the blood or lymph nodes and can become deadly if not treated immediately with antibiotics.  No word on how long he’ll be out.  Andrew Bodnarchuk was brought up from Providence on an emergency basis.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Timmy vs. Tuukka: It Could Be A Lot Worse

The debate has been going on for pretty much the entire season… Who should be the #1 goalie for the Boston Bruins?  Much like the recent Tonight Show war between Team Conan & Team Jay, the fans here in Boston have been divided.  But the camps aren’t broken up as you might think, one side pulling for Tim Thomas and the other campaigning for Tuukka Rask.  Instead they’ve been split into Tim Thomas Lovers & Tim Thomas Haters, with everybody seeming to agree that Tuukka is a great net minder that will be a huge part to the future success of the Bruins.

I made a post on Twitter (@mikewendt) during the 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres… “Tim Thomas... Not as horrible as the TT-haters make him out to be, but not as great this year as the TT-lovers are preaching either.”

If you’re reading this and you’re in the Thomas-Lovers camp, you need to relax a bit.  Timmy isn’t a godlike goalie that can do no wrong, so stop trying to sell him as such.  If you’re on the Thomas-Haters side of the fence, lighten up.  He’s not that horrible in net, and you don’t have to think too far back in Bruins history to be able to say “it could be a whole lot worse.”

Tim is a good goalie, especially when the team in front of him can score.  Last season he had a career year, but I believe a much better representation of his actual play would be the 2007-08 season.  He is a streaky goalie that plays with a ton of emotion and sometimes that emotion can get the best of him (example: the Flyers lone goal at the Winter Classic).  On the flip side you have Tuukka who seems to have much better control over his emotions (milk crate incident aside) and plays a much calmer style of hockey.  Unlike Tim’s flopping, rolling, diving style that usually has me white knuckling my beer and screaming at the TV Tuukka doesn’t seem to inspire such a stress filled viewing experience.  He stays up, holds his positions, uses his large frame to fill up the maximum amount of space in the net, and will usually try to direct the rebounds off to the side or into the corners.  I can’t count how many times my heart has skipped a beat when a juicy rebound, as Jack Edwards would say, pops off Thomas’s pads and lands right in the slot for someone to smack home.

But like I said, Timmy is a good goalie.  How many of you cringed last year when you heard the Manny Fernandez was getting a start?  Thomas was the only guy anyone wanted to see between the pipes.  But because this season didn’t go as everyone thought it would it seems like a portion of the fan base has labeled Thomas the fall guy.  Of course one of the big points that are brought up is the size of his contract, especially when he’s going through a rough patch and people see him on the bench as basically a $5M backup goalie.

I think though for the near future that is the reality that the fans are going to have to live with.  Tim’s cage has been rattled a bit too much and the Bruins need to go with Rask from here on out, in my opinion.  With the team in a fight for one of the bottom three playoff spots in the East with the Canadiens, Flyers, Thrashers, and Rangers every win is crucial to how this season ends up.  They have a good chance of finishing in 6th place if they can all keep their heads in the game and play the way they have in the past week against the Flames, Thrashers, and Rangers.  However if they let themselves slip as they did in the Buffalo game then they could find themselves in 10th and hitting the links in less than two weeks.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let's All Calm Down For A Second

Before the Bruins game on Monday, against the Buffalo Sabres, Claude Julien made the statement that Johnny Boychuk would not be receiving any supplemental discipline for the hit he delivered to Rene Bourque in the Calgary Flames game on Saturday.

I whole heatedly agreed with this decision and from the first moment I saw the hit until now, after watching it over and over so I would know exactly what I’m talking about, I never thought Boychuk was deserving of a suspension.  It definitely was a penalty, but not a suspension worthy hit.

Some might be calling me a hypocrite for this, because of the way I chastised Colin Campbell and Matt Cooke for the Marc Savard incident, but I’m going to try and explain the differences.

The new “Hits-To-The-Head / Blind Side” rule that took effect last week has done a few things, some good and some bad.  The good is obviously that it will protect players from suffering a similar fate that Savard has and punish those that play the game in a very dangerous manner, such as Matt Cooke did.  However the bad that it’s done is how it has impacted the fans of the game, especially ones that don’t completely understand the wording of it.  The moment Boychuk connected with Bourque sites like Twitter exploded with cries for a suspension.  I’m not trying to say everyone isn’t entitled to their opinion but that was not a suspension worthy hit.  Thanks to the fact that I can rewatch the hit on YouTube over and over I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that it wasn’t an elbow on head hit.  Johnny mostly connected with the forearm.  As I said it was a penalty and a careless play, he was high and did make contact with Bourque’s head.  But he came at him straight at him and hit him from the front.  My next statement my get under some skins but I’ll say it anyway…  I think Rene Bourque embellished the hell out of his fall.  I think he felt some contact to his head and decided to draw a penalty by falling like a sack of brick.  Of course this is all my opinion and you can feel free to disagree, that’s what the comment section is for.  But to me that hit didn’t look hard enough to send him down the way it did, unless he had some pre-existing head condition I don’t know about.

To wrap up I just want to express to the fans out there to think for at least a second or two before making statements.  This is hockey, it’s a hard hitting, at times very violent sport and just because the new rule is in place doesn’t mean every little bit of head contact is a cheap shot worthy of a suspension.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Bruins Are Back on the Right Track

The Bruins efforts Tuesday night, in their second 4-0 win against the Atlanta Thrashers this season, is exactly what they need to be bringing to the table every night for the remaining ten games of this season.  They took the positives aspects from their win against the New York Rangers and applied them in this one.

Granted the Thrashers, much like their crowds, barely showed up to “The Biggest Game of Year” as it was being sold in the Atlanta press.  The official attendance claims that there were 14,042 at the Philips Arena last night; however it looked like about half that on TV.  But I’ll save my thoughts on what markets are right for hockey and what ones are in desperate need of relocation for another time.

The Bruins were moving faster, hitting harder, and fighting for every inch of ice during the full sixty minutes of the game.  That last part is probably the most important part of their game that needs to stay consistent.  When they put in a full sixty minute effort good things seem to happen.  David Krejci and Milan Lucic both had a 2 point game with a goal and assist each, Miroslav Satan got his second goal in as many games coming off a redirection of a Zdeno Chara slap shot from the point with 3.5 seconds left in the 2nd period, and Steve Begin broke a 28 game scoreless drought after hammering home a huge rebound off a long wrist shot from Lucic.  But the star of the game would once again have to be Tuukka Rask, turning away 27 shots for his 4th shutout of the season and putting him atop the league for goaltenders in Save Percentage (.930) and Goals Against Average (2.02).

So as of right now the Bruins remain in the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers.  Both teams, along with the Bruins, are in action over the next two nights.  The Habs are in Buffalo tonight taking on US Olympian Ryan Miller and the Northeast Division leading Sabres and they’ll be back in the Bell Centre tomorrow night hosting the Florida Panthers that are coming off last night’s 4-1 thrashing of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Flyers will be heading back to Philly, after falling 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators, to face off with the Minnesota Wild.  In other notable games around the Eastern Conference, the Rangers will be staying local this week as they have the Islanders later tonight (get your little plastic glasses out because it’s being broadcast in IN 3D!) and then they have the New Jersey Devils at The Rock in Jersey tomorrow night. 

The Bruins next game will see the Tampa Bay Lightning coming into Boston tomorrow evening with only 3 wins in their last 15 games, putting them in 12th in the East, and 8 points behind the Bruins in the standings.  Now even though Tampa Bay isn’t an immediate threat to the B’s playoff spot, the two points that are up for grabs are.  The mindset has to be that every single game is as important as a Game 7 type of situation.  Winning is a must!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bruins Are Doing Good Enough

The Bruins play as of late hasn’t been great in most people’s opinion.  But, in my opinion, if they continue to play like they did Sunday against the New York Rangers it will be good enough to possibly finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference.  This would be an ideal position for them to be in heading into the post season.

In the next couple days there will be five teams fighting for extremely important points in the East.

Monday – 3/22/10
Ottawa Senators (79) vs. Montreal Canadiens (79)
Tuesday – 3/23/10
Boston Bruins (76) vs. Atlanta Thrashers (75)
Philadelphia Flyers (79) vs. Ottawa Senators (79 or 81 if they beat the Habs)

The Bruins are in a serious “must win” type of situation and, as I mentioned, if they bring the type of play they did on Sunday they’ll stand a much better chance of getting those necessary two points each night.  In the game against the Rangers they were hitting harder, passing sharper, and doing a good job of clogging up the slot on both ends of the ice.  They are still having the same ongoing issues finding the back of the net and I don’t see any of the final 11 regular season games being high scoring affairs.  But if they can stay tight defensively, protect whatever leads they get, and keep a man in front of the opposing teams’ goalies the dirty goals are going to be what wins them the games.

It doesn’t sound like an ideal game plan and part of it definitely includes the next eleven teams making a number of mistakes in their given sixty minutes.  There is no question in my mind that the next few weeks are desperation time.  The Bruins are in the playoffs at the moment but if you think just making the post season in the eighth spot is going to cut it you’re sadly mistaken.  Because the 8th will play the 1st in the first round, meaning Alexander Ovechkin and the league leading Washington Capitals will be coming at the Bruins with everything they have.

An ideal situation for the next couple days would go as follows… Ottawa beating the Habs on Monday and the Flyers on Tuesday, leaving those two teams at 79 points and the Bruins taking two points from the Thrashers will put them one point behind Montreal and Philly heading into Thursday’s game with the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning.

Two other games on Tuesday I’ll be keeping an eye on are the Florida Panthers hopefully beating Toronto Maple Leafs and keeping the Bruins first round draft pick in a Top 2 spot and I also wouldn’t mind seeing the Lightning drop their sixth in a row to the Carolina Hurricanes before they make their way up Boston on Thursday.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Shook Bobby Orr's Hand and Headed For The Bar

This past Thursday was an interesting day for me here in Boston for a number of reasons.  I spent, literally, the entire day in the TD Garden.  I showed up at 10:00am and didn’t leave until around 1:30am.  Not only were the Bruins going up against the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since the Matt Cooke / Marc Savard incident, but the organization was also honoring the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Bruins Stanley Cup victory that night.

I’ll skip over all the morning and afternoon details, except for the fact that I happened to be walking past the Penguins as they were getting off their team bus and I made sure to stop and give an unflinching stare directly into Matt Cooke’s eyes as he walked by.  Did it affect him one bit?  I highly doubt it, but I sure as hell felt good about myself.

The opening ceremony for the 1970 team was great, especially how they kept it fairly short and to the point.  Unfortunately a lot of other teams in the league haven’t mastered that and will drag things like this out for upwards of 2 hours while the players are fully suited up, ready to go, and the fans become a mix of bored and angry.

Well this particular Garden crowd, and the city of Boston in general, was already pretty angry coming into the game and it only took Shawn Thornton 1:58 into the first period to turn the volume up to 11.  Cooke hit the ice for the first time, the capacity 17,565 let out a roaring “BOOO!” and Shawn’s head snapped in the direction of the Pittsburgh bench.  Thornton made a bee-line at Cooke and started barking at him to drop his gloves.  When he finally obliged, Shawn then instructed him to remove his helmet (which has a visor on it), to which he declined… as Don Cherry said on tonight’s (3/20/10) Coach’s Corner, “That’s the sign of a coward.”

The fight was by far the high point of the game.  From there on the Penguins offense simply out played the Bruins, putting 31 shots on Tuukka Rask as opposed to the Bruins extremely struggling offense only put 17 on Marc-Andre Fleury (none of them getting by him giving the Penguins their 1st shutout this season).

There really isn’t much more I can say regarding the game except that I was standing next to Bobby Orr in the Legends Club for the final ten minutes of it and there wasn’t much either one of us seemed to want to say when it ended.  I let out a sigh, shook the hand of the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of skates, and made my way to the nearest bar.

The rest of the night was definitely much more upbeat as we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Bruins Stanley Cup and the team of men that brought that Cup to Boston.  I’m not going to get into all the details of what went down during the party, mostly because the night was a series of brief but interesting and memorable conversations had between me and some of the players.  All I will say is as long as I’ve been following this team I’ve never been in the same room as the Stanley Cup, until Thursday night, and the goose bumps are still not fully gone.  Any real hockey fans out there will know exactly what I mean.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Revenge For Savard

A lot of the Bruins fans I’ve talked to over the past 11 days are going into tonight’s match up with the Pittsburgh Penguins with the mindset that retribution for the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard should be priority #1 for the Boston Bruins.  Personally I feel the same exact way.  I’m also someone that has felt for years that this is a Bruins team that plays much better hockey when they have a chip on their shoulder, and tonight they should be playing flat out angry as hell.  I don’t think some revenge and a win would be too tall of an order to pull off tonight.

They need to get things going right from the opening face-off in order to the crowd into it.  Because the 17,565 on hand at the Garden tonight are going to be seething from the moment they walk in and will not be satisfied until their bloodlust has been fulfilled.  The big question has been who they are going to target for the payback…  Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Cooke himself?  I’m thinking Crosby gets spared in the retaliation department, but nobody should be immune to the plethora of heavy hits that should be a constant all night.  Malkin, if he plays tonight, should keep his head on a serious swivel seeing as though hits like the one Cooke delivered to Savard are technically still legal in the NHL.  Which brings me to Matt Cooke… He is going to have to drop his gloves at some point in the game and answer for his actions, and if Dan Bylsma (Head Coach of Pittsburgh) had half a pair on him he would start Cooke.  Get it out of the way on the opening face-off and then let them play some hockey.  If that were to happen and this was a perfect world I would have the Bruins starting Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Steve Begin up front with Zdeno Chara and Mark Stuart on defense.  Whoever grabs the meat first gets the first bite.

Some other news that may impact the game tonight is that Colin Campbell and other league officials will be gracing the TD Garden with their presence.  I’m sure he’s going to be analyzing every single move the Bruins make, looking for the slightest bit of “reckless play” so he can play another round of Dartboard Justice (as NESN’s Jack Edwards calls it).  I don’t think his presence, or whatever line of garbage he tries to feed to the players and coaches about zero tolerance, should or will effect what happens on the ice.  Because when it comes to the “consistent” Mr. Campbell, there is no telling what’s legal or not anymore so they need to play their game hard and heavy and let the chips fall where they may.

There’s also the matter of the two points, which would be nice to get at the end of the game.  This is one of those times that the players need to reach down deep and pull out everything they have.  The win and two points are extremely important, especially heading into Sunday’s game with the New York Rangers who are one point behind the Bruins in the East, but what is equally important for them to achieve tonight is the respect of their fans.  I’ve been following this team the entire 30-years of my life and I know the fans here in Boston.  We can take losses and we can put up with bad seasons but the reactions from the fans over the past week-and-change are different then just normal disappointment.  When the team didn’t immediately respond to the hit on Savard and then when the NHL failed to suspend Cooke, everyone marked Thursday March, 18th down on their calendars.  Well the day is here, we’ll just have to see what comes of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Colin Campbell: Consistently Inconsistent

The league has made it clear that Matt Cooke will not receive a suspension for the vicious cheap shot he gave to Marc Savard.  Colin Campbell explained their decision was due in part to them staying “consistent.”  Well I for one can say congratulations guys because you did maintain your consistency for being completely inconsistent and absolutely horrible at your job.

I’ve put together a short (very short) list of what Colin Campbell likes to call being consistent when it comes to handing down suspensions.

2-Games – Randy Jones for almost killing Patrice Bergeron and ending his season.
6-Games – Sean Avery for saying "sloppy seconds" (possibly the most laughable of the list)
2-Games – Scott Hartnell for a cheap shot on Andrew Alberts which resulted in a concussion.
NOTHING – Mike Komisarek for crosschecking Milan Lucic in the face.
1-Game – Milan Lucic for high-sticking Maxim Lapierre.  (this will be revisited)
NOTHING – Scott Walker’s sucker punch on Aaron Ward.
2-Games – Matt Cooke hit to the head on Scott Walker.
2-Games – Matt Cooke hit to the head on Artem Anisimov.
NOTHING – Mike Richards hit to the head on David Booth. (another reason there was no suspension on Savard’s hit)
NOTHING – Matt Cooke hit to the head on Marc Savard resulting in a concussion and probably ending his season.

So what have we learned?  Well apparently being a smart ass is a far worse offense in the eyes of the NHL then almost ending a player’s career.  As far as the Booth hit, I’m guessing they feel deep down that they should have given Mike Richards a suspension, but because they didn’t and their egos are way too big to admit being wrong they are pulling this “staying consistent” garbage. 

I have two statements made by Colin Campbell that I’d like to bring to light.  The first is his explanation yesterday afternoon regarding his decision to not suspend Matt Cooke.

"No one likes when a player like Marc Savard goes down the way he did.  No one likes when a player like David Booth goes down the way he did.  But we have to be consistent.  I know Matt Cooke is a repeat offender.  He's been suspended twice in the last year.  [But] I can't suspend Matt Cooke for being a repeat offender. I have to find a reason.  Right now our rules say that shoulders to head are legal.  Matt Cooke did not jump, and did not do anything that we found illegal in his actions, even though, again, you don't like what happened.”

The next one is Colin’s official statement last April after suspending Milan Lucic for 1-game in the Playoffs, during the Montreal series.

 “While it is unclear whether Lucic’s glove or stick makes contact with Lapierre, what is clear is that he delivered a reckless and forceful blow to the head of his opponent.”

Now can anyone tell me how Matt Cooke’s hit on Savard wasn’t a reckless and forceful blow to the head?  ANYONE???

Where is your consistency now Mr. Campbell?  This paired with the 6-games Sean Avery got for running his mouth about an ex-girlfriend sends a horrible message with regards to the leagues stance on their players safety.  Or maybe they all just have huge crushes on Elisha Cuthbert.

Now of course we have the question of the Bruins seeking retribution for their fallen brother on March 18th, when the Penguins and Matt Cooke come to the Garden…  I have two thoughts on this, what I WANT to happen and what I THINK will happen.  What I want (especially since I’ll be in attendance that night) is a SLAP SHOT inspired blood bath! If you’re wearing a Spoked-B and breathing I want you barreling full steam into the closest Penguin near you!  But what I think will realistically happen is a bit different.  We’ll see a very intense, emotion filled game with some decent hitting and maybe even a fight or two occurring before the end of the night.  But I highly doubt Matt Cooke will be the one to drop the gloves, especially if his sweater’s being yanked on by Shawn Thornton.  Kind of like in the Nov. 1, 2008 game against the Dallas Stars where all anyone wanted was for Steve Ott to drop them and take his medicine for being an unbelievable pest all night.  But it never happened.

I guess all we can do is wait and see at this point, and of course send Savvy our best and hope for a quick & healthy recovery.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Marc Savard Hit

I’ve spent the past two days trying to write this blog, with every attempt turning into an obscenity laced rant about how furious I am over the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard.  So strap in, because this could get lengthy.

Let me get the game out of the way first…  In my opinion the Bruins, lead by the efforts of Tim Thomas, were keeping it a very close game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion – Penguins.  Timmy played great, the defense was playing good, and the forwards couldn’t get the puck in the net. Same old story lately…  Then with 5:37 left in a very tight game, the Bruins attempting to tie it up and get at least one of two very important points and a bit more ground on the extremely competitive Eastern Conference standings… the game changed.

Marc Savard takes a pass from Milan Lucic and fires a wrist shot, high and wide of the goal, as he’s gliding backwards through the slot.  With everybody’s attention (including all four on ice officials) on the play down in the corner Matt Cooke came up from behind Savard’s blind spot (the only way a left handed shooter would’ve seen him coming is if they had an eye just behind their right ear) and delivered a gut wrenching hit to Savard’s head.

What came next was something that no hockey fan (regardless of you affiliation) ever wants to see.

Marc was lying motionless on the ice and according to GM Peter Chiarelli he was unconscious for “around twenty seconds.”

After further review of the hit the only way I could describe it is, absolutely disgusting.  Don’t get me wrong…  I love big, crushing, open ice hits that send players flying to the ground like a sack of potatoes. (see Ovechkin’s hit on Jagr in the Olympics)  And as someone that played hockey for over fifteen years, I loved seeing a player stick handling in my zone with his head down.  Rule #1 that you learned as young as the Mite level was to skate with your head up or you’ll end up on your back.  But what we all saw on Sunday has nothing to do with any of those factors.  Marc had his head up, was following the play, and was delivered a blatant cheap shot.

Another reason for the outrage on this specific incident is that this wasn’t the first time Matt Cooke has delivered a hit like this.  He received 2-game suspensions for putting extremely similar hits to the heads of Carolina’s Scott Walker (on Jan. 20, 2009) and New York Rangers center Artem Anisimov (on Nov. 28, 2009).  I dare you to YouTube either of those and tell me how those hits differ from the one he put on Savard, besides the fact that Walker and Anisimov got up and returned to the game.  If I really wanted to stir the pot with regard to Cooke’s history of dirty play I’d sight his 2-game suspension from 2004 (then with the Canucks) for spearing Minnesota Wild’s Matt Johnson or his knee-to-knee hit in the Playoffs last May that injured Carolina’s Erik Cole (that one ended up going unpunished).

The GMs and other league officials are all down in Florida putting their heads together on a variety of issues this week.  The biggest issue being hits to the head and they’re using the Savard hit as “Exhibit A.”  All the while those of us here in Boston are impatiently waiting to hear what type of disciplinary action (or lack there of) is going to be handed down on Cooke.  This of course poses another huge problem I have, and it’s that the league (more specifically Colin Campbell) seems to be talking out both sides of his mouth... Yesterday afternoon on NHL Live (on NHL Network) he made the bold statement, "We've taken hits to the head out of the game."  Then later in the evening (on a Toronto radio show) he's called Cooke’s hit on Savard a "legal hit with the shoulder." Well my question is which one is it... because by saying that they’ve taken that type of hit out of the game (which they haven’t yet, but are meeting this week to decide whether to or not) that would lead me to believe that it would be illegal to hit someone in the head and I don’t think anyone can argue that what Cooke did on Sunday was 100% a hit to Savard's head.  Confused yet?  Yeah me too…  If that's legal and the league isn't going to make it illegal or punish these types of players more severely then they need to look into removing two things from the current rule book... the instigator penalty and the auto-suspension for fights past the 5-min. mark in regulation.  That way at least the players can go back to policing themselves.  But as it stands, and what most people complaining about the Bruins lack of immediate retaliation don't realize is, they were basically handcuffed at that point in the game.  Regardless of the fact that it was a one goal game and the Bruins need every win they can get right now.  If one of our guys grabbed Cooke and started wailing on him he'd get 5(fighting)+2(instigator)+game misconduct & 1 game suspension then have go in front of Campbell and the board for further review.  But the hit on Savvy was some how legal?  Come on…

As of right now Savard is back in Boston with a Grade 2 concussion and may be out for the remainder of the season.  Matt Cooke has yet to be disciplined by the NHL, but they’re expected to give their decision before the Penguins play the Hurricanes on Thursday.  I’m not expecting to be happy with it, just saying.

As far as tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs, word from Toronto is that Zdeno Chara is not playing (day-to-day) due to an undisclosed lower body injury that might be carried over from the Olympics.  But some good news to wrap this up is that Tim Thomas will be getting the start tonight and Tuukka Rask is back, ready to go, and will be backing Tim up.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

If You’re Not Going To Score... Hit Someone!

Whether it was the reaction from the fans on Tuesday night after watching the Bruins simply fall apart in the 3rd period, giving up four unanswered goals to the Canadiens and handing them two very important points at this place in the season.  Or perhaps they were watching NESN’s version of Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry as he, not only called out Milan Lucic for “quitting” in his fight with Toronto’s Colton Orr, but also called out the team’s lack of physical presence on the ice as of late.  Whatever it was, it certainly seems that the much needed fire has been lit under the Bruins this week. 

Tim Thomas clearly seems to have found that much needed confidence that he’s been missing for a month or so.  It was great to see that Vezina caliber goaltending Thursday night against the Maple Leafs.  Among other things robbing Toronto on five wide open breakaways, including one by former Bruin Phil Kessel that got the “Tough on Timmy” Garden crowd on their feet and back in his corner real fast.  In the shootout he was no different; starting off with a big save on Kessel and not letting up one bit, stonewalling all the Leafs shooters to get the B’s their first win in the Garden since December 30th.  Earlier this afternoon Thomas looked like he was on a mission to prove that his performance in the Toronto game wasn’t a fluke.  He turned away 37 shots (33 in the last two periods) and looked very much in control of his game in the 3-2 win over the Islanders.

An unfortunate note to come out of today’s game is the Michael Ryder hit from behind on Blake Comeau.  Ryder received a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for the hit and in my opinion will probably be getting a 2-3 game suspension.  After watching the hit probably a dozen or so times in the last few hours I don’t feel it was a “dirty” hit.  But it was definitely a very careless hit.  It looks like Comeau put himself in a vulnerable position when he really didn’t have to.  However it also seemed like Ryder could have pulled up a bit on the hit.  We’ll see what Colin Campbell and the NHL have to say about it tomorrow.

Thursday night I was at the Garden for the Maple Leafs game so I didn’t get to see Don Cherry’s comments on NESN, but based on the reactions I was reading on Twitter during the first intermission I knew I had to check the DVR as soon as I got home.  Those of you that don’t watch Hockey Night in Canada (Sat. nights on NHL Network in the US & CBC in Canada) on a regular basis are probably not use to Don Cherry’s style of commentary.  But if you are use to Grapes and can read through his blunt use of words, like I can, you’ll know that he’s a Bruin through and through.  But as much as his blood runs black-and-gold, it also has an equal amount of red-and-white in it.  He’s a Canadian that loves his big, tough Canadian boys...  What am I getting at?  Don calling out Milan Lucic and the Bruins lack of hitting is his way of showing that he’s frustrated, like most of us have been, in their play as of late.  Like he said, “If you’re not going to score, at least hit someone!”  It’s a very valid point…  As good has the Bruins have been in the last couple games and in the four wins prior to the Olympic break, they’re physical game is still extremely lacking and has been for the better part of the season.  Lucic’s role on the team has been to bring a lot of the physicality and due to the couple bouts with injuries this season Milan’s had quite a bit of trouble finding his game.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it, this is a team that needs to play angry.  The more physical the games the better the Bruins seem to perform.  So while we don’t have a 30 goal scoring sniper on the team, we do have a good number of guys that can throw a body check or two.  They are going to have to be the ones stepping it up through the back half of the season, creating space and moving bodies so the shooters we do have can make that red lamp light up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Hockey Fan's Christmas (Trade Deadline Day)

On Wednesday I woke up at 7:45am and was surprisingly alert, which is very out of character for me… I’m more of a noon riser most days.  But for hockey fans this day is a mix of Christmas morning and a day-long endurance test.  I’m referring to Trade Deadline Day!  By 8:00am my room looked like my own personal “war room”… the coffee’s brewing, the TV gets turned to the NHL Network (feeding TSN’s TradeCentre), and the computer is logged into the live coverage on CBCsports.ca along with a few other sites.  My main focus was obviously tracking the moves Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins were going to be making through out the day.  Needless to say the day ended up being quieter then I had hoped for.

The first trade of the day was Derek Morris being sent back to the Phoenix Coyotes for a conditional 4th Round Draft Pick (it will become a 3rd Round if Phoenix resigns Derek at the end of the season).  This was clearly a move to free up some cap space.  I was hopeful this would lead to a bigger trade later on in the day.

The next move the Bruins made was sending Craig Weller, Byron Bitz and a 2nd Round Pick to the Florida Panthers for defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Matthew Bartkowski.  Not exactly what I had hoped for, but Siedenberg’s a decent D-man and it was still early enough in the day that anything could happen.

But nothing did…

To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement.  I think everyone was expecting, or at least hoping for, a top 6 winger.  But the Bruins didn’t make another deal for the rest of the day.

I know it would be very easy to point the finger and say Chiarelli didn’t do his job.  But I just can’t do that.  At the end of the day there wasn't a lot that could really be done. One single player (especially the ones available) isn't going to turn this team into Cup contenders this year. All the "big names" would've been nothing more then rentals... and all the teams with those players were eyeballing the Bruins 1st Round picks, which would definitely not be worth giving up.  I'm obviously not happy with what the day brought the Bruins, but I'm not going to pretend that there was a player that was in Chiarelli's reach that would bring us a Cup this spring. So now it's up to the players we have to step their game WAY UP to get the B's into the Playoffs, which I still believe is completely in their reach.

This is the Bruins team we are going to have for the remainder of the season… So it’s time we stop all the complaining, get behind them, and show them that we all support the guys we have.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gretzky-face, Fireside Chat & Other Olympic Nonsense

So we’re almost a week removed from the Olympics and I’m going to try to give you a breakdown of what I felt was the good, the bad, and the completely infuriating…

Let’s start at the beginning…  As we were all settling in and getting ready to watch a glorified six hour light show our old buddies Al “Do You Believe In Miricles? YES!” Michaels & Bob Costas come on to report on the unfortunate death of Georgian luge athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili, and go on to explain that the Opening Ceremonies will be held in his honor… and then it starts…  The next few minutes are spent replaying his crash / death video over and over and over.  Those of you that were also playing at home on Twitter, like I was (@mikewendt), know that the over all feeling was less-then-pleased that NBC decided to show the actual crash footage.  Of course I was looking for my own soap box to stand on.  Not because they were actually showing this boy die over & over again.  But more because of the fact that they felt this was acceptable to air, yet we as a society acted like our world was coming to an end when Janet Jackson’s nipple was exposed six years ago… or how apologies are being forced onto everyone left and right for “offensive” acts, words, gestures, etc.  But showing a 21-year-old crash to his death is perfectly acceptable to air a half-dozen times in front of one of the largest national television audiences of the year.

Anyway, I’ll continue on more of this apology nonsense a bit further down…

The Ceremonies themselves had their flaws as well… and I’m not referring to the Torch Lighting malfunction that gave us the great pop culture term “Gretzky-face” but rather the need to have Bob Costas doing a running commentary that amounted to a few hours of audio Wikipedia searches.  It completely took me out of any moment they were try to create.  But it’s not the first time Bob’s taken me out of a great moment by over-selling how special, magical, spectacular, etc. the whole thing is.  Did you know that for generations when ponds around the world freeze people have been going out on to these ponds and playing hockey on them? And that by holding a hockey game inside the majestic, hallowed halls of Fenway Park is like the players are going back to their roots and blah blah blah.  Thanks for letting me know that, like the Winter Classic, this is a special event……… I think you see where I’m going here, so I’ll move on.

Once the hoopla was taken care of and the games started I was in full blown TV junkie mode.  My sleep pattern is still messed up from trying to get my fix of everything that I could each night.

I can be honest here so I will… I watched the Figure Skating, Skiing, Speed Skating, and stuff like that just waiting for them to wipeout.  Oh and they did not disappoint. 

But to prove I’m not completely heartless, there were a number of genuinely nice moments to be seen.  When Alexandre Bilodeau, with his brother and country looking on, gave Canada their first Gold medal won on Canadian soil.  Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao winning the Gold for China in Figure Skating was another one of those stories you like to see get the happy ending treatment.

Women’s Curling…  Do I need to say anymore?  Well, if the media coverage is any indication, maybe I do.  I’m not going to smash them too bad, because I understand it’s not really covered here in the States.  But I did find it amusing how the reporters would try to explain the sport to the viewers… It seemed like a cross between someone teaching a child something new & finding out there’s civilization on other planets.  Anyway, my introduction to this fine sport was actually by accident.  I was in Montreal with a couple friends for a weekend and on a rainy morning we decided to nurse a few mean hangovers with a couple cases of Molson Ex and about four hours of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Google it if you’d like).  Maybe it was the Canadian beer or maybe it was watching eight women sliding on ice while screaming “HARD!” but from then on I was hooked on Women’s Curling.

While I’m on the women’s side of things… How about the USA & Canada women’s hockey teams! They beat the bag out of everyone.  I haven’t seen scores get run up like that since little league, and yes this is where I’m going to revisit the apology topic from the first part of this blog.  The Team Canada women had nothing to apologize for and the false outrage over their celebration was what embarrassed me.  Here are the facts…  The women from Team Canada had been in the locker room celebrating their Gold medal win and doing the necessary press for over 70 minutes after the game was over, the arena had been cleared of all the spectators for a long while when a few of the team members decided to head back out on to the ice and soak in all they could of this great moment in their lives.  They had some champagne, beer, and cigars that they were celebrating with.  The only people left in the arena at this time were the team’s personnel, a few Olympic officials, and some press.  Someone snapped a few candid shots of the teammates celebrating on the ice and posted them online.  I still can’t figure out what was suppose to be so embarrassing and/or offensive, but enjoying a couple drinks and a cigar is usually par for the course when it comes to celebrating a sports victory.  However the next day the team had to issue an apology.  I ask you, FOR WHAT?  There was actually a reporter on one of the networks the next day babbling about how they should be “tossed out of the closing ceremonies for their actions.”  That got to me on so many levels it’s not even funny.

Then it was the men’s turn…  USA vs. Canada for the Gold in Hockey!  The game everybody wanted, but didn’t think we’d get.  I’m not too proud to admit that I thought Canada would be facing Russia for the Gold.  But when Canada sent Ovechkin and his boys home in a huff all eyes were on the Americans to make it happen.  Six goals in 12 minutes was all it took for the US to do away with Finland and set the stage for the rematch hockey fans (and NHL PR people) had been dreaming about.  It was an absolutely amazing contest.  Back and forth, tight score, heavy hitting, strong intensity, and above all else… incredible goaltending by Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo.  Would it have been better had USA won? Sure…  But did it really take away from the great competition on display in front of me? Not even a bit.

All in all, I’d give the 2010 Olympic Winter Games from Vancouver a B+ overall.  For the most part, when I wasn’t ranting and raving about the non-athletic aspects of the Olympics, I was enjoying the variety of content these Games brought to us.  The best part (besides my Women’s Curling fetish that I’m seeking help for) was obviously the Men’s Hockey Gold Medal Game – USA vs. Canada.  The worst part, and I’ve given this some serious thought, would have to be the awkwardly boring Fireside Chats with Bob Costas.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Plenty of Room on This Bandwagon

Come on back everyone, there’s plenty of room on the bandwagon…

So the Bruins have put the last three games down in the WIN column and have one more before the Olympic break.  I think I’m going to hold back my thoughts on NBC bumping the Feb. 21st USA v. Canada game for ICE DANCING for a later blog…

Over the past three games we’ve seen a lot of good things come out of this team, but still a few things that could use some work.  First the good…

Tuukka Rask seems to be back on the ball and playing like he was at the beginning of the season.  I’m not taking credit by any means, but I’ve been telling people for about two years that this kid is the future of our team and I think most of you are finally starting to believe it.  I also have supported the management’s decision, last season, to keep him down in Providence and fine tune his game instead of rushing him up.  When I make reference to Carey Price most of the people I know in Montreal immediately go on the defense of their young prince between the pipes.  But I do believe he’s a prime example of young goalie rushed into the #1 spot a bit too soon, and the current goalie situation in Montreal is also why the Bruins fans need to relax with the “Trade Thomas” noise.  We have two damn good goalies that can easily fit into a #1 role.  Do you have any idea how many teams would love to be able to say that?  Besides, there’s something almost every single person that’s running with this “Thomas being traded” rumor keeps forgetting…  Timmy has a No Trade Clause in his contract, and I highly doubt he’s looking to waive that in his first year of a very lucrative multi-year deal.  Another thing to keep in mind is, as good as he’s performing in Providence do you all think Dany Sabourin is ready to replace Tim Thomas?

Another huge plus to come out of the 5-4 win over the Lightning was that it seems Michael Ryder has found his shot.  He was all over the ice and that give-and-go play with Blake Wheeler that lead to his first (of two) goals was possibly the best play I’ve seen a Bruins line make all season.

Lucic seems to be getting more and more of his confidence back each game that goes by.  Put two goals up in the Tampa Bay game and had himself a pretty good fight in the one against the Sabres.  Even after getting his sweater pulled over his face Looch kept swinging those haymakers and managed to get a few squirts of blood out of Buffalo’s Adam Mair.  But it was the fire in his eye as he went to the box that I haven’t seen this season.  That’s the type of intensity we need more of from this team.

I don’t even want to call it a fight, but Zdeno Chara pounding on Steve Downie last night looked like a PSA for why you don’t poke a bear.

If I can point to a negative in the last two games, not so much the one in Montreal but definitely the last two… it would be that they’re not playing with that aggressive intensity for a full 60 minutes.  They’ve been coming out on fire and staying that way for about a period-and-a-half, and then they seem to just slow down, relax a bit, and try to protect the lead instead of increase it.  This would be the main area I’d be stressing if I were in Claude Julien’s shoes right now.

But as I stated in the beginning, there is plenty of room in here so now that we’re back in the Playoff picture you can all feel free to climb back on the Bruins Bandwagon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It Always Starts in Montreal!

As I was leaving the Bell Centre on Sunday evening I got a text from a friend saying, “It always starts in Montreal!”  The Bruins have such an emotional rivalry with the Canadiens and you can feel it everywhere you go when walking the streets of Montreal.  The walk from my hotel to the bar, and then to the Bell Centre, was filled with spirited “boos!” and they weren’t just coming from the fans sporting the bleu, blanc, et rouge… old ladies crossing the street were giving me the business for wearing the Spoked B through Habs Country.  Truth be told, I loved it…  The city lives and dies by their hockey team, and as a life long supporter of the Bruins I know exactly how they feel when they look at me heading down rue Ste-Catherine in head-to-toe black & gold… because it’s the same way I feel when I see them walking down Causeway with a CH on.  There always seems to be a little more emotion and excitement in the buildings when the B’s are playing the Habs… whether it’s a pre-season, regular season, or playoff game the fans energy levels seem just a bit more amped up in comparison to when they’re facing another team.  That’s what makes our rivalry so great.

Sunday’s game was no different.  Although the Bruins fans were scattered into smaller black & gold clusters throughout the Bell when the Bruins scored, Tuukka shutdown one of the Habs rushes, or even when Blake Wheeler squared off for his first career fight we let our support be known loud and clear.

Oh and of course, the most important moment to come out of the game… The Bruins finally broke their losing streak!  And the sweetest sound of the day had to be the silencing of the 21,000+ Montreal faithful that had marched into the arena before the game acting like they had a “sure thing” on their hands.

In closing I would just like to suggest to the Bruins fans out there that haven’t yet made the trip up to see the B’s play in Montreal, mark it on your calendar as a MUST SEE.  You should even make a weekend out of it, like I do, and I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Number 17 Train

One of the guys I’ve been keeping a closer eye on, since returning from injury, is Milan Lucic.  Looch was one of the Bruins major tone setters last season...a physical tuning fork, if you will, for the team and the crowd he was in front of.  Whether his hits, fights, or goals were bringing the 17,565 Garden faithful to deafening roar… or his mere presence on the ice was making the entire city of Montreal’s blood boil… He was definitely our impact player in ’08-‘09.  But this year due to two bouts with injuries the #17 train has had a bit of trouble getting up to full speed.  However, you can tell the desire is there.  He was the player that said in an interview a little over a week ago, “We need to start playing pissed off hockey.”  That is exactly the type of attitude this team needs.  They’ve always seemed to have better games when they’re playing with a little grit and nastiness.  Milan had the lone goal in the 2-1 loss to the Sabres last Friday night and on Saturday, against the Kings, he seemed to be skating faster and even hitting harder then he’s been since coming back from his latest injury.  That tells me he’s regaining a lot of his confidence on the ice and could possibly be back to playing at 100% in the very near future.  Personally I think it might take getting one more knock down, drag out, heavy hitting tilt under his belt with one of the league’s fellow bruisers to get that fire burning good and hot in the engine.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

One Point Away…

One point away… I have a feeling we’ll be hearing that phrase quite a few times over the next few weeks with regards to this current Bruins team.  Saturday night we got one, very important, point in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings, moving us up to 9th place in the Eastern Conference.  However the Flyers won their game moving them up to 6th and the Canadiens got one point in an OT loss, to the still-on-fire Senators, keeping the Habs just ahead of the Bruins in 8th. 

But since I’m in a “keeping it positive” kind of mood, let’s reflect on some of the good things that came out of this game…

The Bruins are getting more healthy players back each passing day.  This is huge in terms of the team’s consistency.  It’s very hard to develop any kind of rhythm or chemistry with your line mates when the deck keeps getting shuffled due to somebody else getting injured and having to sit for an extended period of time.  So getting back Marco Sturm and Steve Begin is a big check in the plus column.  Both players were two of the hardest skaters on the ice Saturday.  Sturm’s goal was not only a display of his great offensive intelligence but also an amazing amount of patience as he drew the defenseman out of position, picked his spot, and fired a wrister past King’s goaltender Jonathan Quick.

The players’ intensity seemed higher then I’ve seen in a number of weeks.  The majority of them were more aggressive in the physical game then they’d been and appeared to be skating with a purpose, creating more up ice rushes. 

So, again the question of the day is, what will it take for the Bruins to start putting a few wins up?  Goals.  It’s as simple as that, they need to put the biscuit in the basket… and more then once or twice a game.  The team does need to make a deal for a quality goal scorer, but they also have a number of players that need to start pulling their own weight.  So unless some huge shake up comes before Tuesday’s game against the Capitals, who are coming into Boston on a 10-game winning streak, we’re going to need some of that weight to be pulled very quickly.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Marc Savard & the 800 Pound Gorilla

The Bruins will be getting Marc Savard back tonight against the Sabres, after missing 8 games due to a partial MCL tear in his right knee.  This is a huge step back in the right direction for the struggling B’s, who are on a season-high 5-game losing streak right now.  From the looks of practice this week Marc will be centering the line with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan on the wings.  But Savvy isn’t the only Bruin on the verge of returning.  Steve Begin, Marco Sturm, Byron Bitz, and Andrew Ference were all on the ice Thursday for the team’s final practice before heading up to Buffalo.

So is getting the injured players back going to miraculously make everything better?  No…  But it is a good start.  The team on a whole needs to come out on fire and stay that way for the entire 60 minutes.  Be mean, be aggressive, be angry, and use it to win.  Like Reg Dunlop said, “Get that [expletive] stick in their side. Let 'em know you're there!”  This team has the potential, with a full and healthy line up, to once again be a serious threat.  Remember we’re heading into tonight’s game in Buffalo only 1 point out of being back in the playoff picture.

Of course there’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room… All the trade rumors that have been the focus of every Bruins related discussion as of late.  Personally I think we will definitely be seeing a new face wearing the Spoked B very soon (the Olympic trade freeze is from Feb. 12th through Feb. 28th and the NHL trade deadline is on March 3rd), and if Peter Chiarelli can play the right cards to secure a bona fide goal scorer we could see the Bruins with a another legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.


Other games I’ll be keeping an eye on tonight…

Toronto @ New Jersey – Obviously every Maple Leafs loss will make our draft picks all the more valuable.

Florida @ Washington – We need the Panthers to stay where they are so we can leapfrog them in the standings… and with them facing a Capitals team on a 8-game winning streak, I don’t think that will be a problem.

Anaheim @ Tampa Bay – The Lightning are right alongside us with 54 points in the East. So we could use a little bit of help from the Ducks tonight.